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Volume 2244
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Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter®of Mars


44. "WATERY TOMB" -- Oct. 4, '42
(read novelization

P1: With powerful strokes John Carter swam toward the riverbank -- behind him with sinister quiet came a great dragon-fish. 

P2: Like some evil thing in a dream it slowly overtook the man, its cavernous mouth engulfing him. 

P3: The dragon-fish tossed back its hairy head and Carter was washed through the huge throat in a surge of water. 

P4: He was tossed and twisted in the tortuous blackness of the esophageal passage; then he found himself within a place that glowed with strange phosphorescence. 

P5: Now the startling truth dawned on the Earthman -- he was inside the creature's gigantic belly! 

P6: Hissing in satisfaction, the monster dove for its underwater lair to digest its meal in solitude. 

P7: When the gastric juices commenced to flow into the dragon's stomach John Carter knew that soon the digestive acids would eat the flesh from his bones. 

P8: Meanwhile, the giant chicken-men sped off with Dejah Thoris toward the hidden village in the feather forest. 


1. Compare 


Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst

John Carter's head and shoulders broke the surface and he floated upright in the blackness. In a career of soldiering that reached back past his earliest recollections he had several times defended himself with a sword while treading water, but always before he had known where he was and what enemies he faced. Several times the Earthman was aware of large moving things coming near him in the dark. From below the water's surface they gave off a faint luminescence, passing him by like fast flying ghosts, with shapes and sizes blurred beyond recognition. Each time one of the hazy shapes came too near he slashed out with his long-sword. When he made a lucky hit in the dark, the water came alive with thrashing forms and jarring currents. 

"Sharks!" he thought. "Or something very much like sharks. If I survive five minutes longer it will be a miracle!" 

The endangered swordsman perceived a brownness above the blackness. At first it made no sense to him, but then he realized that to his left side, at some unknown distance, the darkness was mitigated ever so slightly by some unknown illumination. Having no better options before him, John Carter turned to the left and with powerful strokes swam toward the light. Treading water with a long-sword in one hand had been difficult , but swimming while holding onto the life-saving weapon was even more arduous. He was making very slow progress, if indeed he was making any progress at all. The swimmer experienced the odd perception that the indistinct boundary between the brown horizon and the black water was rising in a bulging swell directly in front of him. 

A pair of glowing orbs appeared out of nowhere. The sable separation between the two huge eyes grew ever wider and the dim brown light disappeared altogether. Like some hellish thing come to life an unending nightmare a cavernous mouth opened around the swimmer, engulfing him. In that perilous instant, the horror of his situation flashed upon John Carter's confused and disoriented perception. He was heading directly into the maw of a titanic carnivorous thing -- a dragon of the watery depths -- and he could do nothing to stop his mad rush into a hot, throbbing doom! 

The dragon-fish tossed back its hirsute head and Carter was washed inside the thing, feet first. He stretched out his free hand to grab onto something -- anything -- but his clutching fingers merely slipped over one side of a hairy bulge and after that he lost all contact with the great mouth's exterior. The man was tossed and twisted in the tortuous blackness of a tight enveloping passage; then he shot through its far end and found himself within a place that glowed with strange phosphorescence. Now the startling truth dawned on the Earthman -- he was deep inside the creature's gigantic belly! 

The thick layers of Dejah Thoris' cloak protected her from the hard jolts of the runner's bony shoulders. Wrapped within its confining cover the unconscious girl had a temporary sense of warmth and safety. Her blissful oblivion came to an abrupt end when Cro-Yat halted his long jaunt and threw down the bundle he had been carrying upon his back. From an opening in the soft dark folds, the face of the girl emerged, stunned and dismayed in the bright Martian sunlight. Hot tears of frustration and anguish streaked her flushed copper cheeks when the Heliumite princess realized where she was -- and what her inevitable fate among these savage bird-like men was to be. 

The Thark girl looked across the many dials, gauges and lights of what Oman called the "monitoring station" in the tower laboratory. She concluded that a vast amount of information regarding Dejah Thoris and John Carter was being brought together and assembled into meaningful knowledge, but what the results might be were beyond her comprehension. 

"You say that you can see what is happening in their dream?" the maiden asked. 

"I cannot see that in the same way my ocular receptors see you, Sola," the mechanical man responded, "but I can reasonably guess what the two dreamers are experiencing. Vovo had telepathic powers that allowed him to enter into the delusions he created. One part of his mind conducted and observed his experiment, while another part interacted directly with the dreamer. I watched him do that with the Jasoomian right after the wizard cured his paralyzed hands. In fact, it was my witnessing Vovo's vile manipulations of the man's thoughts that first stimulated me to try and stop the green wizard. But I myself have no such mental powers. I can only influence the sleepers with subtle suggestions and sensations. For the most part, I simply watch and wait." 

"And what do all these instruments now tell you, Oman?" 

"They tell me that the princess and the swordsman are losing contact with each other and moving into a pair of loosely connected, individual dreams. They tell me that as that personal separation increases, both dreamers slip more deeply into Vovo's carefully scripted delusion. I believe that the only chance of a successful outcome lies in their reuniting and finding a shared reality within the fantasy. If that can begin to happen, they may yet find their way out of the mental maze." 

Sola thought long and hard. She now trusted that the mechanical man was doing all he possibly could to save her friends, but the prospects still looked bleak. There must be a way to do more for the dreamers -- a way to help them, even the midst of their tangled misperceptions and personal nightmares. There simply must be! 

"Oman, you said that you do not have the telepathic capability to enter into the dream to help my friends directly. With the death of Vovo, is there any being left in Eo who has such an ability?" 

Hissing in satisfaction, the monster dragon-fish made its way through the black water to the lair where it was wont to relax and digest its meals in solitude. In the monster's gut, its most recent feast was giving the creature a touch of indigestion. It was time for the dragon-fish to rest in the shallows of the underground lake and there allow its powerful gastric juices to do their job. 

John Carter was suffocating. He found his head and shoulders enclosed within a gas bubble in the dragon's belly but the gas pocket contained precious little oxygen. No matter how rapidly his gasps took in the fetid vapors, the Earthman's lungs ached and his head spun. The digestive acids he now floundered in burned his skin and stung his eyes. Carter knew that the powerful chemicals would soon eat the flesh from his bones. His only shred of satisfaction came in the thought that his brain would die from lack of air long before the acid consumed his lifeless body. 

Meanwhile, Cro-Yat, and his giant chicken-men resumed their march through the dismal forest. The leader carried the princess in his arms, since the distance to their destination was now quite short. Dejah Thoris could easily read their lustful, rapacious thoughts and she knew that her final moments would come to pass at the creatures' nearby village -- under a butcher's knife and in a roasting fire.


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